A troubled year for Unlockd, fraught with Google legal battles and a delayed IPO, has lead to the Ad-tech start-up’s voluntary administration.
In a statement sent out this morning, Unlockd blamed Google’s “unanticipated” threats to remove the start-up’s apps from the Google Play Store ecosystem and “deny access to its ad server Admob”.
As a result, “Unlockd was forced to place its planned ASX IPO on hold and take a stand to protect the business, shareholders, partners and importantly 330,000 monthly users to whom this action would cause irreparable harm and disruption.”
The news comes in the wake of an ongoing legal battle between Google and Unlockd.
According to this morning’s release, Unlockd launched in 2016 with a clear vision to change the way people use and pay with their digital devices.
“It is now a revolutionary platform that is fundamentally changing the way that people interact with the world of advertising, by returning value to users in exchange for their attention in a way that Google and other big tech companies do not.”
In just two years, the start-up had raised more than $60 million in external funding, including a $30.7 million boost from backers including Lachlan Murdoch.
In April, Unlockd announced it would be postponing its IPO due to Google banning the platform’s app on its Google Play store.
At the time, Unlockd confirmed it had applied for an injunction with the UK High Court to prevent Google from disabling AdMob-generated advertising content and removing Unlockd’s app from the online store.
“Unlockd’s legal counsel has confidence that the threats made by Google to withdraw access and the supply of services in respect of Google Play and AdMob represent an abuse of its dominant position and breach of competition rules,” the statement said.
In May, Unlockd was granted an interim injunction from the UK High Court to prevent Google from disablingn advertising content and removing Unlockd apps from the Google Play Store in respect of its UK business.
The court also accepted the need for an expedited trial date, to be handed down on Monday in a follow-up hearing, with an anticipated date of either end of July or September.
However, fast forward just two months and it seems the start-up was not able to “secure capital”, and has now gone into voluntary administration.
According to the start-up’s statement this morning, “The ramifications of Google’s actions have had and continue to have a deep impact on the business when considering the valuation of Unlockd prior to these threats and the postponement of the planned IPO, which would have fueled the continued growth and expansion of the business.
“As such, we have not been able to secure the capital we had expected to replace the IPO and therefore have been left no choice but to move into voluntary administration.
Adding, “We believe that Google’s conduct and the effect of its actions represent a further example by them of anti-competitive conduct toward innovative start-ups such as Unlockd, that might pose a future threat to their position in the market.”
“Until a wide-reaching change is brought about to prevent companies like Google from abusing their dominant market positions, consumers and innovation will continue to suffer.
“Unlockd’s Board of Directors and management are now working with administrators to decide on the best path forward for the business and continue to assess current discussions regarding investment and potential acquisition.”
Last year, ex-Twitter exec Aliza Knox joined the start-up as its chief operating officer.